Objections to the Hail Mary (Leo XIII, the Rosary, and Christian Unity, part 5 of 10)

Oct 15th, 2014 | By Beth Turner | Category: Blog Posts, Catholic Life and Devotion

This is the fifth in a ten part guest series by Beth Turner, the wife of Barrett Turner. Beth and Barrett were received into full communion at Easter 2010 and live in Virginia with their four children. Beth’s story of her journey into the Catholic Church can be found at Saved by Love: A Seminary Wife’s Journey.


“Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!” (Luke 1:42)

The apparently excessive number of Hail Marys prayed in the Rosary sometimes poses a stumbling block for Protestants. Even converts to the Catholic faith sometimes puzzle, in faith, over this point. If it is really such a Christocentric prayer, with the life of Christ presented in the mysteries, why do we keep calling on Mary?

We firstly draw confidence from the fact that the praises of the Hail Mary come from Scripture itself. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” is how Gabriel greets Mary, and “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” is how St. Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist greets her (Luke 1). These Scriptural praises tell us, at the very least, that Mary’s blessed life is worth gazing upon.

Pope Leo XIII also anticipates and responds to some of these objections. In the first place, he writes about how it is that we can say that any person – Mary or otherwise – stands between us and the blessings of Christ. Don’t we go to Him directly, as the one Mediator? Leo writes, “Undoubtedly the name and attributes of the absolute Mediator belong to no other than to Christ, for being one person, and yet both man and God, He restored the human race to the favor of the Heavenly Father… And yet, as the Angelic Doctor teaches, ‘there is no reason why certain others should not be called in a certain way mediators between God and man, that is to say, insofar as they cooperate by predisposing and ministering in the union of man with God’ (Summa, p. III, q. xxvi., articles 1, 2)” (Fidentem piumque animum 3). According to this definition by St. Thomas, it seems that every Christian could be considered a mediator between God and man. We are all called to evangelize, and we act in this capacity as God’s messengers to the world. And what is a messenger except a mediator between the sender and the recipient of the message? We mediate between God and the world by proclaiming His message. Mary’s mediation brought us close to God first by giving flesh to His Son, and she brings us close now by her prayers.

Responding to a similar objection about whether we give too much honor to Mary or treat her like God by calling on her name, Pope Leo explains, “So far from derogating in any way from the honor due to God, as though it indicated that we placed greater confidence in Mary’s patronage than in God’s power, it is rather [Mary’s patronage] which especially moves God, and wins His mercy for us. We are taught by the Catholic faith that we may pray not only to God himself, but also to the Blessed in heaven, though in different manner; because we ask from God as from the Source of all good, but from the Saints as from intercessors” (Augustissimae Virginis Mariae 9). Prayer to Mary is not the same as prayer to God. She stands between God and us not as an obstacle, but as a helper. Mary sends our prayers on to God and the sweetness with which she delivers them moves Him to have compassion on us. Furthermore, honoring Mary does not make God jealous. When people compliment my children, I don’t throw a fit if they fail to compliment me, too. In fact, it rather pleases me when someone compliments my children. It’s not hard to imagine that our praising Mary pleases God in a similar fashion, as she is a preeminent daughter of His.

Pope Leo also addresses a potential objections about the sheer number of Hail Marys in the Rosary. Following Saint Bernardine of Siena, he writes that all graces are communicated to us by three degrees: from God to Christ, from Christ to Mary, through Mary to us: “And we… do linger longest… upon the last and lowest of these steps [the Hail Mary]… so that we may thence attain to the higher degrees–that is, may rise, by means of Christ, to the Divine Father. For if thus we again and again greet Mary, it is precisely that our failing and defective prayers may be strengthened…” (Iucunda Semper Expectatione 5). We linger upon petitions to the human Mother of God, the lowest of the degrees, because we are lowly human creatures.

Our greatest confidence in Mary’s intercession, however, comes from her last recorded words: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). This was her word to the servants at Cana, and this is her word to us. She recognizes when we are out of wine, she asks Jesus to give us more, and then she directs our attention back to the work He has for us. Do not be afraid to call upon Mary in the Holy Rosary!

Part 4 of this series is available here.

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  1. Every second spent praying to Mary is a wasted one that could have been spent praying to God.

  2. Presbyterian #1 “Every second spent praying to Mary is a wasted one that could have been spent praying to God.”

    In 2nd Kings Solomon greets his mother by bowing low, and then has a throne brought for her use. It is at his right hand. It is the beginning of a pattern whereby the mother of the king of the Jews carries some responsibilities. She is responsible for the training of the king’s household and she is responsible for bringing the needs of his people to the king.

    As one begins reading through 2nd Kings, one begins to find a consistent statement. It reads that so-and-so is the king, and then notes his mother’s name. There are at least two dozen of those statements. There is also one such in one of the Hebrew prophets where the king is named and so is his mother. The practice is kept when Judah and Israel split. The kings of both nations involve their mothers in their kingship.

    When the wise men find Jesus, it is written that they found Him with His mother.

    At the wedding feast at Cana, it is Mary, acting as the queen, who tells her Son that his people have no wine. She then leaves Him to act on that bit of information, and He does. He honors His mother, thus fulfilling perfectly His commandment about honoring one’s mother, and the information from His queen is fulfilled simultaneously in the need she identified for Him.

    When He is dying, He tells His mother to behold her son (the apostle John), and tells John to behold his mother. She is so important that He cares for her right up to the point of His death.

    There is a lot more about Mary that scripture offers, but this is sufficient. When we ask Mary to hear us and then extend our prayers to our Lord Who is her Son, we get the benefit of His willingness to honor His mother and the benefit of His Kingship which includes her Queen-ship under Him.

    Lastly, when our children were born, we had them baptized. We mediated grace to them as their parents. My prayers are in part for my children and their children. I am still mediating grace. My prayers are heard, but I do have the wit to do a rosary as part of my daily prayer. She is always good to hear me and to make requests for the benefit of all that is offered through her to her Son. She is not stealing anything from Him, rather she is fulfilling one of the roles she was given. Indeed she looks at us and then points directly to Him as she says “do whatever He tells you.”

  3. (I’m discerning Catholicism, currently PCA )
    Presbyterian said:
    “Every second spent praying to Mary is a wasted one that could have been spent praying to God.”

    All Christians are connected to one another in Jesus’ body: the Church. This applys even to LIVING Christians in heaven. If it’s a waste of time to ask any of these living Christians to pray for us, then it’s a waste of time for you to ask anyone to pray for you. Further, as James says:

    “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16 ESV)

    The living saints in heaven would be pretty righteous.

  4. Barrett Turner,

    “all graces are communicated to us by three degrees: from God to Christ, from Christ to Mary, through Mary to us”

    Could you expand more on this point? I can definitely see Grace following to us through the God-Man Mediator, Jesus, but why also through Mary? This point is not obvious to me.

  5. Presbyterian,

    If you believe, as Catholics do, that Mary’s petitions are especially sweet to God, then it is not possible that prayers to her wasted. Our (often) inadequate petitions are carried by Mary’s sweet lips to our Savior’s heart, and there they find rest.

    This kind of illustration is what I think of when considering prayer to Mary. When my 2-year-old screams for a toy that I’ve taken away because he was getting frustrated by it, I am not usually inclined to give it back, no matter how much he screams. But if my 5-year-old asks me, nicely, to give it back to him, and says that he will help his 2-year-old brother to figure out how to work it? Well, that just melts my heart, and I am anxious to accomplish it on behalf of both. So it is with our prayers to Mary. She prays for us in the way that my 5-year-old “prays” to me for his 2-year-old brother, and her prayers move God in a way that our prayers do not.

    Peace, Beth

  6. Lane,

    The way I understand the communication of graces through Mary is similar to how I understand the Incarnation of the body of Jesus through Mary. Heaven and earth were united in Christ, and came (necessarily) through Mary. The grace of God we receive now, from the merits of Jesus, comes to us in similar fashion, through Mary. I’ll let Barrett fill in the gaps.

    Thanks for commenting, Beth

  7. I am a protestant who prays the rosary. I also regularly (almost daily) ask for the intercession of St. Joseph and also St. Timothy and St. Josemaria Escriva. The intercession of the saints, and especially Mary, is not a problem to me. We are all sons of God through the only begotten Son, we are all part of the priesthood of believers through our great high priest, and we are all intercessors through our Lord, who ever intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand. Yet, I sometimes struggle with the concept below.

    “all graces are communicated to us by three degrees: from God to Christ, from Christ to Mary, through Mary to us”

    Where do we see that “all graces are communicated to us…from Christ to Mary, through Mary to us.”

    I don’t question that graces are communicated to us through the intercession of the saints, but I sometimes struggle with the all-graces-come-to-us-through-Mary concept.

    I’d like to see learn more about this.

  8. Jeff, re#7,

    As an adult “convert” to the faith myself as I encountered this and other doctrines I often looked for physical-world analogies to the spiritual teachings delivered to us through the Church. For example when considering the nature of the Church I often looked to the reality of the union that exists between bride and groom in marriage. It was in those lofty terms that I came to accept the nature of Chrisf’s Church and its role in the redemption of His people. In the case of Mary’s unique role as far as graces are concerned, the parallels and analogies are often all but obvious. It was through Mary’s womb that Christ was truly delivered to us. So in a very real and literal sense “all graces” do indeed come to us through her. In light of Mary’s role in the Incarnation, then, one needn’t take much further of a step to realize that it is fitting that God, in building this mystically boind family, saw it fit to deliver graces in the manner under consideration.

  9. Ave Maria!
    I don’t have time to say much, but I would suggest looking into the concept of Mary as the ‘New Eve’. Bl. Cardinal Newman wrote about it from this perspective, and a selection of his writing has been published in the book, ‘The Mystical Rose’

    Considered as the ‘helpmate’ to Christ as Adam was given one, one can see how She fits in on a wider-scale (this is, of course, not by necessity, but it is the way God chose to act). It is more difficult to see this if one focus on this or that role or priviledge. For example, as the Mother of God, God received His human nature from Her, but that is only one of the ways She contributed to the mission of Christ. Et cetera.

  10. Lane (#4) and Jeff (#7),

    Thanks for your comments. I am glad that we share that principle of the communion of the saints, that the parts of the body help one another even as they are vivified by the Head. If we share that, I believe that we are close too on Mary’s role in mediating grace to us, for the head is attached to the body by a neck. Beth’s and Friar Charles’s comments are worthy of reflection. If I am to add something, I would point out that the point about Mary as the New Eve was very helpful for me personally in understanding her preeminent role as a creature in the work of redemption. This idea can be found in the fathers as early as St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus of Lyon (see Dialogue with Trypho 100.5, and Against Heresies III.22.4 and V.19.1, respectively). The Catholic approach to interpreting Scripture is that, acknowledging that God brought about and preserved the inspired Scriptures in and through the Church, one should read Scripture in the Church and under the guidance of the Fathers.

    The basic idea underlying Mary’s co-mediation of all grace is that of there being a Woman who is the helper fit for the Man. Although Adam was the head of the human race by natural descent, Eve was the help fit unto him. Now Jesus Christ is the New Adam (cf. Romans 5, 1 Cor 15), and Mary is the New Eve made fit to be his helper (cf. Luke 1). Eve was a sinless virgin who is called by Adam both “Woman” (Genesis 2:2:23), who would become the “Mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20); Mary is a sinless virgin who is called by the New Adam “Woman” (Jn 19:26), who becomes the “Mother” of the Beloved Disciple (Jn 19:27). The Beloved Disciple is himself a type for each believer, and thus Mary is seen to be the mother of all the faithful. This is clearer in Revelation 12. Jesus Christ is the “offspring/seed” who fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 (cf. Galatians 3:16), and yet the rest of the Church is called the “rest of her [the Woman’s] offspring” in Revelation 12:17 (cf. v. 1).

    The point then is, by God’s wisdom in raising up the lowly in order to fulfill the promise to Abraham to bless the nations (cf. Mary’s son in Lk 1:46-55), Mary became co-redeemer with the New Adam just as Eve was a co-sinner in the fall of the first Adam (1 Tim 2:14). Where Eve said no to God, Mary said yes (“Let it be done unto me according to thy word”). So, just as Eve is the mother of all those who live by nature, so Mary is the mother of all who are alive to God through grace (and also of all who have the potential alive to God by grace, and so of all human beings). As St. Ireneaus put it, Mary undid the knot of Eve’s disobedience when Mary consented to bear the savior of the human race. Thus our salvation comes to us through Mary, in her consent to the Incarnation and at her consent to Christ’s sacrifice at the foot of the cross. Mary’s role as co-mediatrix is greater than any other Christian’s role as a co-mediator with Christ.

    Friar Charles recommended Bl. John Henry Newman’s writings on this. Two other sources are worthwhile. The first is the encyclical letter Ad diem illum by Pope St. Pius X on the fiftieth anniversary of the definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Also helpful is the section of Vatican II’s document on the nature of the Church, Lumen gentium, that contains a prolonged meditation on Mary from paragraphs 52-69. In particular, paragraphs 60-62 are most relevant to this question of Mary’s role in communicating the grace of Christ to us.

    Another helpful resource is Dr. Larry Feingold’s lecture series on Mary, including the talk on Mary’s spiritual maternity and mediation.


  11. Fr. Charles & Barret,
    Thank you for your responses. I will check out the sources you mentioned and meditate carefully on them. What you wrote is resonating w/me.
    In Christ,

  12. Jeff,
    And we fellow bloggers can intercede for you too if you want.

  13. I vividly remember the first time I attempted to pray the Rosary. It was humbling. I felt like a little child. If nothing else (although there is truly much else I love about it), repeating the Hail Mary is a powerful reminder that it is those who become childlike who obtain the kingdom of heaven. It is also a daily reminder of my impending physical death and the importance of seeking God and saying “yes” to Him in each moment.

  14. Thanks. Jim.
    I’d welcome your intercession for me.

  15. Thanks everyone. I will look into the recommended resources.


  16. Beth, your example of listening to the 5 year old vs the 2 year old makes sense …. for a sinful human. But are you not in that instance disobeying the spirit of scripture, eg. James 2? Showing favoritism to the 5 year old because he asks more nicely than the 2 year old is judging them on their appearance rather than the substance of their requests. More than that, we don’t need a 5 year old to intercede for us when we have the ladies husband himself interceding for us (Romans 8 – “Christ Jesus … is also interceding for us”).

    The only other way the example makes sense is that you’ll grant the favor because the 5 year old offers to help the 2 year old. Again, that makes sense for a finite human parent without the time to help the 2 year old herself. It makes no sense for an infinite God who can and will help us Himself.

    Looking up to Mary (or other saints) as examples, I get. Seeing Mary as the new Eve or calling her role in bringing Christ into the world and/or raising him “mediation” in some way, also fine, that grace can be mediated through people (eg. parents), totally cool. But the Jews never prayed to Eve, and there are no examples of prayers to Moses or Abraham or any other person in heaven in scripture that I’m aware of. The earliest examples given by Catholics of “prayers to saints” are nothing more than acknowledgements that the saints in heaven are speaking to God (possibly of us on Earth in general, possibly specifically) – with no indication that they are (or can be) listening to us here on Earth.

    Even after the “rebuttals” given here, I have to agree with Presbyterian’s first comment – “praying” to Mary is wasting time that could be spent praying to God, even though I accept most or all of the arguments that show how important Mary was and how much we can learn from her example. Indeed, she said “do whatever He tells you.” And He said “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” … and from another saint: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

  17. RD –

    I’m glad you see that Mary’s example is a helpful one, and that her life might, in many ways, can be considered better than ours. But I think your assertion about favoritism is in error. It is not simply the 5-year-old’s appearance which makes me favor his request over the 2-year-old’s. They’re both usually pretty dirty, and I still think both of them are terribly cute! (They take after their father, after all). It is, rather, the 5-year-old’s placidity, his confidence in the goodness of my response, his love for his little brother, and his depth of understanding about the situation which make his request more pleasing. Similarly, it is Mary’s excellence in these same qualities which makes her requests more perfect than ours.

    As to your point about a finite parent not having the time to help the 2-year-old, it’s true that this is very often my situation. But it’s still not the only reason that I would grant the 5-year-old’s request. He might not be able to figure out a way to help the 2-year-old, after all, and then I will once again have a screaming 2-year-old frustrated by his toy in about two minutes. I’m not only trying to assess whether my 5-year-old can effectively pacify his brother when I decide how to respond. I am also more likely to grant it to the 5-year-old because his expression of love towards his brother and his understanding of how to restore peace to our home inclines me to grant his request. It’s as if he knows my mind (greater understanding of the problem and it’s possible solutions), and his heart is joined to mine in wanting what’s best for his little brother (love). And that’s a beautiful opportunity for the 5-year-old to show the love of God to his baby brother. I am anxious to give them that chance as often as I can – even if I do ultimately have to take the toy away for an extended visit to the toy closet.

    I mean, analogies only take you so far. I’m not God, and Mary is much more mature in understanding and love than a 5-year-old, and we are not always like screaming 2-year-olds (except when we are, towards God :). So, hopefully it’s a little helpful, even if it doesn’t get us all the way there. I trust you understand, too, that the central sacrament of the Catholic faith is like an hour-long prayer to Jesus, so we do not neglect direct conversation with God!

    I will let others comment on the principle about the intercession of the saints. I believe it has been written of in more detail in other places on the site.

    Peace, Beth

  18. RD (re: #16)

    More than that, we don’t need a 5 year old to intercede for us when we have the ladies husband himself interceding for us (Romans 8 – “Christ Jesus … is also interceding for us”).

    Presupposed in this objection is the notion that sacred theology is determined by pragmatism and the principle of parsimony. But that’s not a safe presupposition. Rather, it is a human philosophical assumption. God is not necessarily limited by what is most efficient, or merely by what is “needed.” God could have forgiven us without the cross. That alone ought to give us pause when attempting to deduce or determine a priori the content of sacred theology by way of the principle of parsimony.

    But the Jews never prayed to Eve, and there are no examples of prayers to Moses or Abraham or any other person in heaven in scripture that I’m aware of.

    Keep in mind that until Christ ascended, the door of heaven was closed. See “The Harrowing of Hell.”

    Even after the “rebuttals” given here, I have to agree with Presbyterian’s first comment – “praying” to Mary is wasting time that could be spent praying to God, …

    That would entail that asking your [presently embodied] friends to pray for you is always also “wasting time that could be spent praying to God.” Again, implicit in this objection is the supreme elevation of the [very American / modern] value of maximizing efficiency, to the point of doing theological work, even though sacred theology is entirely based on supernatural divine revelation, not what is entailed by principles of human reason.

    Regarding how the saints in heaven can hear our prayers, I’ve written about that in comment #7 of “A Catholic Reflection on the Meaning of Suffering.” Also, I wrote a short post explaining why the prayers of the saints are efficacious, titled “Heroes of the New Covenant.” (Update: see also here.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. Christ allows us, as the Body of Christ, to share in His Intercessory ministry. The key here is participation. The Blessed Virgin Mary has a special place in the Body, and as such, a special way that she participates in His Intercessory ministry. So, yes, we only have one Mediator, but He like to share. It all started when he created us.

  20. I ask these questions out of sincere desire to understand the Catholic position. With that said I have no problem with the saints in heaven even Mary praying for me my concern is that no where in the Bible does it say that we should invoke the saints asking for intercession. Also from my encounters with Catholics is a lot of times Mary becomes someone they place their hope and trust in as much as they do Christ I hear once on ewtn radio that Bishop Fulton Sheen said that he relied on nothing he’s done in this life but trusts he will get into heaven because of Mary’s intercessions. I understand what you guys say about not worshipping Mary but if what he was saying wasn’t idolatry I don’t what is. That my second concern is the danger Catholics are turning and trusting Mary’s intercession for the forgiveness of sins than the Cross and Turning to Mary for their every need rather than God. My last concern is this idea that Jesus isn’t going to always give us what we want so we will go to his Mother and Jesus being a good Jewish boy can’t say no his Mother or Jesus is God so why can’t relate with him but Mary she is like us so we can go to her this is a contradiction and a rejection of Hebrews 7: 25 “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. ” because it presents Jesus as not willing to intercede for us but only by Mary’s pleas he does. I’m sorry if my language is strong but this is issue of grave importance.

  21. I was mulling over posting a post with somewhat similar points to Matt’s #20 post. I want to enter communion with the Catholic church, but the thing that stops me is below:

    My understanding is that Christ as our High Priest is compassionate and merciful. He is man, so he understands temptation, the trials of life, even death itself. Therefore, I can go to Him confident in His mercy. I struggle with going to God and God wills that the saints intercede. I accept that. But to become Catholic, do I give up intimacy with Christ? Must I view Him as unapproachable except through the intercession of Mary? Like Matt, this is of the most vital importance. It is the stumbling block as I contemplate becoming Catholic.

    In Christ,

  22. Dear Jeff (#21)

    Very briefly, you do not give up intimacy with Christ. On the contrary, as a Catholic you are able to experience intimacy with Him in a way that is unique to Catholicism (and Orthodoxy): by taking His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity into your very own body in the sacrament of the Eucharist. John 6:53.

    Pax Christi,

  23. Matt & Jeff, I will respond to your comments tonight when I have some free time. In the meantime, anyone else is welcome to respond. pax, Barrett

  24. Matt & Jeff,

    First of all, the Rosary is an optional (but very beneficial) devotion, but confessing our sins and receiving Our Lord in holy communion at least yearly are not, and attendance at Mass on Sundays is not. This helps to instruct all of us – Catholics and Protestants alike – in the absolute necessity of a direct relationship with Jesus. The Church knows this.

    I wish I could offer more in the way of helping you understand the formal theological distinctions about the Mary’s intercession, but I feel quite confident that others can do so with more precision than I can. Since I have, at times, struggled with these fears (am I keeping Mary and Jesus in proper perspective?), I will make several practical suggestions that have helped me since my conversion:

    1) In response to your concern, Jeff, it is not necessary to only speak to Mary in prayer, even though we must recognize that Jesus comes to the world through Mary and it is very good to go to Him through her. One can come directly into the presence of the Lord through contemplation before the tabernacle, or in adoration. Catholic churches often have “holy hours,” where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for adoration. Some Catholic parishes also have something called “perpetual adoration,” where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed every hour of every day, in a special chapel somewhere close to the church, for anyone to come visit. Usually, at least one parishioner will volunteer to spend an hour with the Lord at all times so that this precious gift can be available for anyone who stops by (even overnight). Finally, the sanctuaries of most Catholic churches are at least open during the day. You can enter and pray in the presence of God there. You can find the tabernacle by locating a (usually ornate, often gold-colored) box at the front of the church with a red candle lit above it. This indicates the presence of the Blessed Sacrament inside. We often speak of Jesus waiting for us in the tabernacle, greatly desiring us to visit Him in these ways.

    2) Daily mass is also a wonderful practice. Not only does it give us a bit of the Word of God upon which to meditate at the beginning of the day, it also gives those who are in union with the Church the opportunity to receive their Lord in holy communion. This is, as Frank mentioned, an incredibly intimate experience of relationship with Jesus. Not all are properly prepared to receive the Lord (unrepentant souls holding on to grave sin, those who do not profess the same faith as the Church), but there are still many benefits to be gained from being in attendance and not receiving.

    3) Two other popular Catholic devotions are the devotion to the Divine Mercy (look up Saint Maria Faustina and buy a copy of her diary) and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (look up “Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus”). These two devotions concern Our Lord’s great mercy and compassion for sinners. Jeff, your awareness of Christ’s merciful, compassionate heart might make these two devotions especially helpful to you.

    It’s true that if we approach Mary because we are afraid of God, then we must diligently seek to uncover the cause of our fears. Mary’s role is not to sweep our fears under the rug, but to help us overcome them. We should also not expect Mary to obtain for us something that is not God’s will, and we shouldn’t use her that way. All of her intercessions are subject to the will of God, because she herself perfectly subjected herself to it during her life. We should always be willing to go exactly where the mysteries of the Rosary are supposed take us: deeper into the life of her Son. This includes considering whether our own lives accurately reflect His, whether our desires are His desires, whether we are truly believing that which He has revealed. We should also be willing to go where Mary is always found in the Gospels – right next to Jesus. From his conception, his birth, his childhood, his first miracle, and his death, she is always right by His side. This is where she will take us if we pray the Rosary properly.

    Peace, Beth

  25. Matt and Jeff ,

    When I was struggling with some of these issues you mention, I found the following to be helpful from Pope John Paul II encyclical REDEMPTORIS MATER :


    1. Mary, the Handmaid of the Lord

    38. The Church knows and teaches with Saint Paul that there is only one mediator: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). “The maternal role of Mary towards people in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power”:94 it is mediation in Christ.

    The Church knows and teaches that “all the saving influences of the Blessed Virgin on mankind originate…from the divine pleasure. They flow forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rest on his mediation, depend entirely on it, and draw all their power from it. In no way do they impede the immediate union of the faithful with Christ. Rather, they foster this union.”95 This saving influence is sustained by the Holy Spirit, who, just as he overshadowed the Virgin Mary when he began in her the divine motherhood, in a similar way constantly sustains her solicitude for the brothers and sisters of her Son.

    In effect, Mary’s mediation is intimately linked with her motherhood. It possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes it from the mediation of the other creatures who in various and always subordinate ways share in the one mediation of Christ, although her own mediation is also a shared mediation.96 In fact, while it is true that “no creature could ever be classed with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer,” at the same time “the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise among creatures to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this unique source.” And thus “the one goodness of God is in reality communicated diversely to his creatures.”97

    The teaching of the Second Vatican Council presents the truth of Mary’s mediation as “a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself.” Thus we read: “The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. She experiences it continuously and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that, encouraged by this maternal help, they may more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer.”98 This role is at the same time special and extraordinary. It flows from her divine motherhood and can be understood and lived in faith only on the basis of the full truth of this motherhood. Since by virtue of divine election Mary is the earthly Mother of the Father’s consubstantial Son and his “generous companion” in the work of redemption “she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”99 This role constitutes a real dimension of her presence in the saving mystery of Christ and the Church.

    [end of quote] The whole thing can be found here http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031987_redemptoris-mater_en.html

  26. Jeff,

    But to become Catholic, do I give up intimacy with Christ? Must I view Him as unapproachable except through the intercession of Mary?

    I can relate to this sentiment. As a former Protestant, my relationship with Jesus was “just me and Jesus”. Perhaps it seems that the communion of saints implies having to “share” Jesus; maybe it seems that sharing Him means getting less of Him, or that by knowing Him through the saints, you will get someone different from the Person who has been leading you all along.

    But there is another possibility – He calls us to communion for a reason; perhaps through the saints He is calling us to know Him in a fuller and deeper way.

    Consider Mary’s intimacy with Christ. She knew Him in the womb from conception until birth. The Divine Person nursed from her own bosom. She watched with her own eyes as He allowed His blood and water to be poured out for the salvation of souls. And throughout her life, she knew Him and loved Him more deeply than any other.

    The humbling moment is to realize I don’t know Him and love Him very well. If only I could see Him with her eyes and love Him with her heart! This is why I pray the Rosary – to contemplate Our Lord through the eyes and through the heart of His Mother, so that I can love Him even more. Thanks be to God that He gave us a Mother who always leads us to Him.

  27. Couple questions

    “The Church knows and teaches that “all the saving influences of the Blessed Virgin on mankind originate…from the divine pleasure. They flow forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rest on his mediation, depend entirely on it, and draw all their power from it. In no way do they impede the immediate union of the faithful with Christ. Rather, they foster this union.”95 This saving influence is sustained by the Holy Spirit, who, just as he overshadowed the Virgin Mary when he began in her the divine motherhood, in a similar way constantly sustains her solicitude for the brothers and sisters of her Son.”

    By this statement do you guys that mean Mary is only hear before God because of Christ’s merits and power and not because she was perfect or because she was our Lord’s mother.

    Secondly, this doesn’t answer my objection about teaching use to ask the saints to help us obtain mercy, help us with struggle with sin etc. as if we would have a better chance rather than just seeking Christ. I realize you guys do pray directly to Jesus but from what I understand you guys say you will be heard faster or have better change, or receive more with you get the saints to pray for you.

    How do you reconcile the fact that praying to Mary or any Saint is not mention or command in the Bible ? And the only references to intercession is pray to God not anyone else ? Further clarification the saints on earth are command to pray to God for others and we see the saints in heaven direct their prayers to God not that I’m saying you guys are saying the saints in heaven pray to anyone else I’m just saying in all examples of intercession prayer is addressed to God alone no one else.

  28. Does the affection children give to a father suffer because they also have a mother?

    I think many of the authors and commentors, having become Catholic from sundry Protestant traditions, know your apprehension well. You may be interested in the selection from St. Maximilian Kolbe I quoted here

    I allude to another writing of his which may be more on your point.

    Your two concerns are something which someone with a devotion to Mary could blow off, but they are not small. Remember, it was the question of Mary that kept Bl. John Henry Newman from becoming Catholic for years. I would recommend this small anthology of his writings which helped me a lot as I was looking at the Church.

    One must gain an understanding of the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding Our Lady in the plans of God. Without this, Marian devotion will seem at least weird and unnecessary. With it, devotion to Her is as natural as loving your own mother.

    The forgiveness of sins can only come through the redeeming sacrifice of Christ on the cross, period! However, as I said, this doesn’t exclude a subordinate role of a human person who was intimately involved with the Coming of Jesus into our world and with his self-sacrifice. It is not an accident that Mary was at the foot of the Cross.

    Mary cannot forgive our sins, Jesus can because He is God. Mary’s place is bringing us to Jesus. He is always the endpoint of all authentic Marian devotion. One could say that the proof is in the pudding, and when you look at the lives of (to pick contemporary examples) St. Maximilian, St. John Paul II, or Bl. Mother Teresa, you see a burning, passionate love for Jesus and an tender love for Mary (always with the understanding that Jesus is a divine person, and Mary is a human person). The line from St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary hit me once:

    Since the above is a poor answer, let me try again. Your question still comes to me from time to time, since Jesus is all-merciful and tender, why go to Mary? After all, He didn’t say, “Let the little children go bug my mother, not me.” But it is a deeper realization of the majesty of Jesus which impels this comment. He is still God, the All-Holy, and I think we tend to be a bit cavalier about this. As the famous saying goes, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Do we have to exchange intimacy with Jesus for Mary, of course not, having a tender devotion to Mary will take our relationship with Jesus to entirely new levels. You could say she is the “catalyst”.

    The section from St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary hit me once, especially the bolded area:

    94. Scrupulous devotees are those who imagine they are slighting the Son by honouring the Mother. They fear that by exalting Mary they are belittling Jesus. They cannot bear to see people giving to our Lady the praises due to her and which the Fathers of the Church have lavished upon her. It annoys them to see more people kneeling before Mary’s altar than before the Blessed Sacrament, as if these acts were at variance with each other, or as if those who were praying to our Lady were not praying through her to Jesus. They do not want us to speak too often of her or to pray so often to her.

    Here are some of the things they say: “What is the good of all these rosaries, confraternities and exterior devotions to our Lady? There is a great deal of ignorance in all this. It is making a mockery of religion. Tell us about those who are devoted to Jesus (and they often pronounce his name without uncovering their heads). We should go directly to Jesus, since he is our sole Mediator. We must preach Jesus; that is sound devotion.” There is some truth in what they say, but the inference they draw to prevent devotion to our Lady is very insidious. It is a subtle snare of the evil one under the pretext of promoting a greater good. For we never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son.

    95. The Church, with the Holy Spirit, blesses our Lady first, then Jesus, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” Not that Mary is greater than Jesus, or even equal to him – that would be an intolerable heresy. But in order to bless Jesus more perfectly we should first bless Mary. Let us say with all those truly devoted to her, despite these false and scrupulous devotees: “O Mary, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

  29. Fr. Charles thank you for the Article suggestions I will definitely read them and I admit my problem is I can not see how prayer and devotion to Mary brings us closer to our Lord and not away from him. I want to thank everyone who has responsed to me as well.

  30. Matt (#27),

    You said:

    By this statement do you guys that mean Mary is only hear[d] before God because of Christ’s merits and power and not because she was perfect or because she was our Lord’s mother.

    In the Catholic perspective, that is a false disjunction, as the quote from St. John Paul II indicates. Mary is perfect and the predestined Mother of God precisely because of God’s grace won by the merits of Christ. She is heard because of her supreme love and holiness. Her privileges were granted to her by God’s favor, as Pope Pius IX defined:

    We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. (Ineffabilis Deus, my emphasis)

    Furthermore, there is no contradiction between being granted these privileges by God’s grace, and Mary then being heard because of her holiness and love. The Catholic position, after all, holds to a participatory view of salvation, not a monergist one. For more on Mary’s sinlessness, its basis in Scripture and Tradition, and how it relates to Christ’s mediation, I recommend Dr. Larry Feingold’s lectures on Mary’s immaculate conception and Mary’s role as co-redemptrix. You also said:

    How do you reconcile the fact that praying to Mary or any Saint is not mention or command in the Bible ? And the only references to intercession is pray to God not anyone else ?

    We can answer your question better if you answer this one first: Where in the Bible does it say that the Bible alone is the only rule of faith? Also, to presume that one needs an verse from Scripture explicit to oneself is to beg the question of the truth of Protestantism and the falsity of Catholicism. Instead, from the Catholic point of view, the Word of God comes to us through Tradition and Scripture, and as transmitted in the Church with the guidance of the Teaching Office [magisterium]. So just because one does not find something explicitly said in Scripture does not mean that it is not found in the Word of God or is unnecessary to believe. The Church progresses in her understanding of the Word of God as she ponders it in her heart through the centuries. Hence what is implicit in revelation and believed confusedly can be made explicit and believed with greater understanding later.

    But here is another sincere question for you: why would Scripture permit you asking other people to pray for you (and you praying for other people) if doing so was idolatrous or a violation of the mediation of Christ between God and men? On the contrary, St. Paul bases the command to pray for all people on the salvific will of God and the one mediation of Christ in 1 Tim 2. The dignity of the Body of Christ is to be redeemed and brought to participate in the work of the Head–not because God needs it, but because he is well pleased to give the kingdom to human beings. Those who have greater charity in their hearts have a more intimate union with Jesus, and thus their prayers are of greater power than others (cf. James 5:16).


  31. Barrett Turner,

    You said “Where in the Bible does it say that the Bible alone is the only rule of faith? Also, to presume that one needs an verse from Scripture explicit to oneself is to beg the question of the truth of Protestantism and the falsity of Catholicism. Instead, from the Catholic point of view, the Word of God comes to us through Tradition and Scripture, and as transmitted in the Church with the guidance of the Teaching Office [magisterium]. So just because one does not find something explicitly said in Scripture does not mean that it is not found in the Word of God or is unnecessary to believe. The Church progresses in her understanding of the Word of God as she ponders it in her heart through the centuries. Hence what is implicit in revelation and believed confusedly can be made explicit and believed with greater understanding later. ”

    As a protestant I believe the bible is sole infalliable rule of faith I don’t reject using the church fathers, councils etc. as means to help me understand the Word of God and rule of faith under authority of the bible. But I acknowledge that these are not infallible and can err in their teaching. My point in asking that was this looking at the usage of intercessory prayer in the bible their is no hint of the early Christians teaching intercessory prayer or practicing it in the way Catholics do now in praying to saints and not directly to God so would it not be fair to say that the practice Catholics are doing is not in harmony with Bible because you guys teach to ask saints in heaven to pray for you which is very different than the new testament usage to pray directly to God. I believe you would agree all dogma should be in harmony of the bible right ? Also here is a link to a good explaination of Sola Scriptura http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=19
    This article can explain things in much fashion than me about how we don’t believe in what is called solo Scriptura.

    As for you second question Im not going to fall for that you know full well that when you guys pray to Mary it is much different than just asking a friend, you venerate her, you praise her with flowery language that is sometimes idolatrous. When I ask someone to pray for me i don’t ask them like this “Hail, holy Queen [of heaven], Mother of Mercy! Our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping, in this valley of tears.”

    I’m sorry if this may come across as combative that is not my intention but you say said that you ask mary to pray for like you would a friend just be up front with me it is a different category than just casual chat.

  32. @Matt
    One possible way: Ask Her.

    Myself and others I know who are also converts will admit not being able to make heads or tails of this and other doctrines, however, once they ask Mary to help them, things begin to change. This plea is often something like by “My Lord Jesus, I don’t know if this is what you want, but please forgive me if it isn’t. Mary, if you’re there like they say you are, help me to understand better the will of God and your place in it.”

    And while Catholics do tend to be sensitive to questions about Mary, if you don’t ask them, you can’t find the answers.

  33. Bryan/Beth, thank you for your responses. I’ve read a bunch of the linked articles/comments as well, and there’s obviously a lot more material out there in other places. I can easily see how the practice of praying to saints/Mary, and the placement of Mary on the pedestal of an Immaculate Conception could have evolved from a more “proper” (from my understanding) treatment of the saints as heroes of the faith, which I see in the church fathers as well as from many Protestant sources.

    One objection I have to a lot of the comments/articles (on this site in general, including the comments/Heroes of the New Covenant article linked in response to me above) is the over-generalization that protestants think that all saints (all believers) are equal on every level because we believe that our righteousness was imputed to us once for all by the sacrifice of Christ. The latter part of that statement is true, but the former part leaves out what we normally call sanctification (which is a process) and what we call holiness (which can be greater/lesser in different people). I have never sat down and tried to determine how much of that particular disagreement is simply semantics and terminology, but I suspect that a large portion of it is (and have read some things from less “radical” theologians on both the Protestant and Catholic sides of the divide that agrees with this). Of course, when interpreting a text about the prayer of a “righteous” man, terminology is important … (but from my perspective, the text says nothing about righteousness and effectiveness being correlated, even with a Roman Catholic understanding of righteousness – just that the prayer of someone who rates as “righteous” is powerful and effective, which does not lead to the Catholic position that praying to saints leads to more effective prayers to God).

    I know I have more study to do on this and every other matter of Christian faith, but there still seems to me to be a blurring of the lines on the Catholic side of this debate between having and asking someone to pray for you and praying to someone. If there is a difference between prayer to God and prayer to a saint, why call the latter prayer? It seems likely to me that this is terminology that is likely (destined, even) to give rise to an improper, idolatrous tendency in the way Christians think of saints in heaven, as well as Mary (and like Matt above, I have definitely seen it at least approach idolatry in some Catholic people I’ve interacted with) … not everyone is a theologian and is going to understand that distinction. The most likely reason I can see it called prayer is that there was at some point in the history of the church at least a general misunderstanding of what calling on saints in heaven (whether it started as a direct or indirect thing … as a Protestant, I lean toward indirect) involved, and that the terminology is now so baked into the Catholic (esp. as non and anti Protestant) identity that humanly speaking it is unchangeable at this point.

    So while I can agree that meditating on and studying the lives of past saints (in which I include Mary, although I understand that Catholics put her on a separate pedestal called “Immaculate Conception”) as heroes of the faith can be beneficial in allowing Christians to draw closer to God and Christ, and I can agree that they commune with God much more closely than I do (being in heaven), I still don’t see the rationale or Biblical basis behind praying to them. Needing such a basis may be begging the question on Protestantism being valid, but the alternative is to beg the question on Catholicism being valid, and I’m starting from a Protestant mindset (as are most of the target audience of this site, from my understanding). There is always a very real danger that the things that one spends time meditating on and communing with in whatever way become the things that one ends up worshiping – and I’ve seen it happen, whether it was with sports, politics, money, saints or Mary. Calling something prayer just makes that inevitable. Perhaps the terminology used earlier that time spent praying to saints is time wasted that could have been praying to God was too harsh (not every moment should be spent in prayer, for most of us), but even if I mentally re-interpret “praying to saints” as something other than prayer, I’m left with my own judgment that the approach and reaction of the Reformers still seems more Biblical. I recognize that I’m using my own human judgment on this, and that it is not perfect, so I will continue to pray on this and work on understanding it better … however, to be honest, this conversation has not led me any closer to the Catholic position, at most it has allowed me to better understand how Catholics justify their position …

  34. Matt (#31),

    Please just call me “Barrett”. You wrote in your first comment that you are here seeking to understand what we believe about asking Mary to pray for us, since to you such asking 1) is not in the Bible, 2) is idolatrous, and 3) draws people away from Jesus. You are welcome to keep asking your questions, though I hope one who is willing to be perceived as combative will at least struggle to answer the questions posed of him. ;-) If we are suspicious of each other from the get go, I fear that whatever we say will not result in an increase of understanding.

    As to your first point about the Bible, it was in response to my question about where in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the sole rule of faith. I asked this question because you premised your first objection on this. You did not answer this question, except to say that you hold the Bible to be the “sole infallible rule of faith.” You did not provide any citation or text from the Bible to prove that it is so. I can rephrase the question if it helps: “Where in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith?”

    The other reason why I asked the question is that if you judge the Catholic faith by a Protestant theological principle, this will not show the Catholic belief to be false without also begging the question about the falsity of the Catholic faith in general (and the verity of the Protestant). So it behooves us to consider the “big picture” (paradigmatic) nature of the disagreement between Catholics and Protestants, and the fundamental principles pertaining to the transmission and interpretation of the Word of God. This is why I stated the Catholic position regarding the transmission of the Word of God in the Church by Tradition and Scripture and as interpreted with the guidance of the Church’s teaching office (magisterium) comprised of the bishops in union with the pope. Bryan Cross explains the paradigmatic nature of the disagreement here, and why it would be a mistake to judge Catholic beliefs about the Word of God based on the doctrine of sola scriptura. Doctrines such as the validity of infant baptism, the nature of original sin, the definitions on the Most Blessed Trinity and on Christ’s one person, two natures, two wills, etc., are all the fruit of doctrinal development in the Church. Doctrinal development involves making the implicit and obscure to us explicit and clear. Another helpful post looking at the fundamental principles of each side’s approach to authority is here. Bottom line: in the Catholic paradigm something can be “in harmony” with Scripture without being stated explicitly in Scripture, because the Catholic faith teaches us to receive and interpret Scripture in the light of Tradition under the guidance of the Church’s teaching organ, the Magisterium (pope and bishops).

    As to your second point, since I did not say that asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray is only like a “chat” with a mere “friend”, I did not conceal anything from you. Instead I asked a question of you about whether you had a principled way of distinguishing asking others to pray and asking Mary to pray, such that the former did not violate and the latter did violate the mediation of Christ between God and men. Since I did not see an answer in your reply, I will simply ask again. Why would Scripture enjoin asking others for prayer if this violated the mediation of Christ or was idolatry? If you cannot say why Scripture allows this without such requests falling prey to your own objection, then why should Catholics have to explain their devotion to Mary? Do you see the problem I was getting at?

    Finally, you contend that praying to Mary is idolatrous, and you cite the Salve Regina prayer as evidence. If you don’t mind, what in particular is idolatrous about this prayer? I am not playing dumb here, but trying to understand precisely why that prayer is evidence to you. Once we make that explicit, we can then talk more fruitfully. I think that we would then be able to move to talking about why it is that Catholics consider the intercession of Mary and the saints a great help in this earthly trial. That was one of your follow up questions, I believe.


  35. Matt (#31),

    Also, I forgot to add, I appreciate that you want to distinguish your position from a radical individualism in interpreting the Bible, and that you see tradition as a subordinate help in interpreting the Bible, tradition itself being corrected by the sole infallible rule of faith. But we hold that there is no ultimate difference between “solo scriptura” and sola scriptura. The difference between them is that in the latter, an individual’s ultimate interpretive authority is not made as obvious because the individual interprets the Bible through a tradition and ecclesial community. But the reason why that community and tradition is chosen as opposed to another is one’s interpretation of Scripture and one’s determination of what is essential to believe. Then, that determines which beliefs of the Fathers and which parts of ecumenical councils and which rulings of the popes are erroneous. Ray’s post in my previous comment compares this with the Catholic paradigm.

    I look forward to your comment.


  36. @Matt
    I think you need to do some more reading about the Immaculate Conception, it is not just a pedestal, but the foundation of the work Christ accomplished in Mary as “God’s Masterpiece.”

    It is also important when it comes to words like “prayer” and “worship” to realize that English has been dominated by Protestantism and its ideas. Old-school theologians who were educated before the ’60s will confess that they hate teaching theology in English because of its unsuitability for the philosophical and theological content of the Catholic tradition (as Fr. Hardon said, “I much prefer teaching theology in my first language: Latin). In Latin, to pray is “orare” which simply means “to speak”. Since English has been dominated by those who do not “pray” to saints or “worship” Mary, these terms have become exclusively directed towards God. Consider archaic forms such as “Pray thee” “Pray tell” etc.

    Also, consider that a distinction which seems completely natural to a Catholic may only appear implicitly in prayers to saints, so that to someone without this lived principle, it seems to “blend.” This distinction is reinforced in various ways in the liturgy, in popular devotions, sacred art, and etcetera. The example of a church with stained glass is often used. From the outside, it seems almost unsightly, but from the inside it is glorious. That is like what it’s like getting “inside” the Church. That which seemed like dusty, indecipherable glass is illumined by the Catholic life with all its facets. The culture shock (with things such as the Salve Regina) fades, and it become easy to understand and as natural as everyday life. In fact, I have found that the spiritual in Catholicism mirrors the natural like a key fits the lock. Like Beth’s examples with the toys and the children, we can see the spiritual order working analogously to the natural order, and while this may seem to be projecting backwards, it is the same God who created the universe we see and the spiritual order of things, and Catholics speak of creation as being a source of revelation about who God is. Grace repairs and builds nature, God isn’t trying to recoup His losses by yanking an elect out of sinful creation, but in Christ, He is creating anew. So it is only natural that we have a spiritual Father from whom we receive life, and a spiritual Mother who mediates it and who teaches us to love the Father, and we have older brothers and sisters we can turn to for help by their intercession for us (the technical point that the prayer to the saint is heard by the power of God, and is fruitful by the saint’s prayer for us is often left implicit. I don’t say “Heavenly Father, I don’t know where my car keys are, but please let St. Anthony know I would like him to pray for me to find them, and please hear his prayer and direct me towards them, if it is your will for me to find them.” I say, “Saint Anthony! Where are my car keys?!?”)

    The reason why the “moderators” or those directing the discussions are so annoyingly persistent about things like logical structure, paradigms, and such is to prevent the discussion from getting bogged down into differences of culture and devotional practices, and not the issues at stake.

    Finally, as St. Maximilian points out, the end of prayer is to grow in union with Christ and be able to live out our love for him by conforming our wills to His. Our relationship with Mary, Our Queen-Mother, and the saints, our big siblings in faith, is all oriented to this end of persevering in fidelity to grace and to doing the will of God.

  37. RD – from my reading of English literature, my understanding of the word “prayer” is that it is synonymous with “making a request” of someone. In that sense, I can even “pray” to my husband, or “pray” to my children, or “pray” to my parents. The key to a proper understanding of any given prayer, therefore, is a proper understanding of the person to whom you are praying. A proper understanding of my husband is a sinner who has promised to help me in this journey of life; a proper understanding of my children is as vulnerable little ones Jesus loves and who have been given to me for care and instruction; a proper understanding of Mary is mother of Jesus and all his brothers (and maybe a few other things, which is what we’re trying to figure out); and a proper understanding of God is the source and sustenance of all of these good things!

    I am grateful that you visit this site to read and interact with us, and I am grateful that it seems to be your intention to continue that. I pray you keep thinking with us about these questions, especially the question about whether your own human judgment is sufficient to decide what is most Biblical. That is not only a prayer that I make to God on behalf of both of us, but also one I make to you. :)

    Peace, Beth

  38. Barrett,

    I admit the bible does not explicitly teach that it is the sole infallible rule of faith. But here is a quote from a article by Norm Geisler and Ralph Mackenzie here is a link to the article

    ” One, the fact that Scripture, without tradition, is said to be “God-breathed” (theopnuestos) and thus by it believers are “competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added) supports the doctrine of sola Scriptura. This flies in the face of the Catholic claim that the Bible is formally insufficient without the aid of tradition. St. Paul declares that the God-breathed writings are sufficient. And contrary to some Catholic apologists, limiting this to only the Old Testament will not help the Catholic cause for two reasons: first, the New Testament is also called “Scripture” (2 Pet. 3:15-16; 1 Tim. 5:18; cf. Luke 10:7); second, it is inconsistent to argue that God-breathed writings in the Old Testament are sufficient, but the inspired writings of the New Testament are not. Further, Jesus and the apostles constantly appealed to the Bible as the final court of appeal. This they often did by the introductory phrase, “It is written,” which is repeated some 90 times in the New Testament. Jesus used this phrase three times when appealing to Scripture as the final authority in His dispute with Satan (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). ”

    And I’m sorry I misunderstood what you were asking about how is it Mary’s intercessory prayers detracts from Christ meditation and those on earth don’t.

    My dispute isn’t with Mary intercessing on our behalf in my first post I said I didn’t have a problem with saints interceding for us in heaven I wanted to clarify that. But here is a quote from the book of Concord that illustrates what I object too.

    “Besides, we also grant that the angels pray for us. For there is a testimony in Zech. 1:12, where an angel prays: O Lord of hosts, how long wilt Thou not have mercy on 9] Jerusalem? Although concerning the saints we concede that, just as, when alive, they pray for the Church universal in general, so in heaven they pray for the Church in general, albeit no testimony concerning the praying of the dead is extant in the Scriptures, except the dream taken from the Second Book of Maccabees, 15:14.

    Moreover, even supposing that the saints pray for the Church ever so much, 10] yet it does not follow that they are to be invoked; although our Confession affirms only this, that Scripture does not teach the invocation of the saints, or that we are to ask the saints for aid. But since neither a command, nor a promise, nor an example can be produced from the Scriptures concerning the invocation of saints, it follows that conscience can have nothing concerning this invocation that is certain. And since prayer ought to be made from faith, how do we know that God approves this invocation? Whence do we know without the testimony of Scripture that the saints perceive the prayers of each one? 11] Some plainly ascribe divinity to the saints, namely, that they discern the silent thoughts of the minds in us. They dispute concerning morning and evening knowledge, perhaps because they doubt whether they hear us in the morning or the evening. They invent these things, not in order to treat the saints with honor, but to defend lucrative services. 12] Nothing can be produced by the adversaries against this reasoning, that, since invocation does not have a testimony from God’s Word, it cannot be affirmed that the saints understand our invocation, or, even if they understand it, that God approves it. Therefore 13] the adversaries ought not to force us to an uncertain matter, because a prayer without faith is not prayer. For when they cite the example of the Church, it is evident that this is a new custom in the Church; for although the old prayers make mention of the saints, yet they do not invoke the saints. Although also this new invocation in the Church is dissimilar to the invocation of individuals.

    14] Again, the adversaries not only require invocation in the worship of the saints, but also apply the merits of the saints to others, and make of the saints not only intercessors, but also propitiators. This is in no way to be endured. For here the honor belonging only to Christ is altogether transferred to the saints. For they make them mediators and propitiators, and although they make a distinction between mediators of intercession and mediators [the Mediator] of redemption, yet they plainly make of the saints mediators of redemption. 15] But even that they are mediators of intercession they declare without the testimony of Scripture, which, be it said ever so reverently, nevertheless obscures Christ’s office, and transfers the confidence of mercy due Christ to the saints. For men imagine that Christ is more severe and the saints more easily appeased, and they trust rather to the mercy of the saints than to the mercy of Christ, and fleeing from Christ [as from a tyrant], they seek the saints. Thus they actually make of them mediators of redemption.

    16] Therefore we shall show that they truly make of the saints, not only intercessors, but propitiators, i.e., mediators of redemption. Here we do not as yet recite the abuses of the common people [how manifest idolatry is practised at pilgrimages]. We are still speaking of the opinions of the Doctors. As regards the rest, even the inexperienced [common people] can judge.

    17] In a propitiator these two things concur. In the first place, there ought to be a word of God from which we may certainly know that God wishes to pity, and hearken to, those calling upon Him through this propitiator. There is such a promise concerning Christ, John 16:23: Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Concerning the saints there is no such promise. Therefore consciences cannot be firmly confident that by the invocation of saints we are heard. This invocation, therefore, 18] is not made from faith. Then we have also the command to call upon Christ, according to Matt. 11:28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor, etc., which certainly is said also to us. And Isaiah says, 11:10: In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek. And Ps. 45:12: Even the rich among the people shall entreat Thy favor. And Ps. 72:11,15: Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him. And shortly after: Prayer also shall be made for Him continually. And in John 5:23 Christ says: That all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. And Paul, 2 Thess. 2:16-17, says, praying: Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, … comfort your hearts and stablish you. (All these passages refer to Christ.] But concerning the invocation of saints, what commandment, what example can the adversaries produce from the Scriptures? 19] The second matter in a propitiator is, that his merits have been presented as those which make satisfaction for others, which are bestowed by divine imputation on others, in order that through these, just as by their own merits, they may be accounted righteous. As when any friend pays a debt for a friend, the debtor is freed by the merit of another, as though it were by his own. Thus the merits of Christ are bestowed upon us, in order that, when we believe in Him, we may be accounted righteous by our confidence in Christ’s merits as though we had merits of our own.
    20] And from both, namely, from the promise and the bestowment of merits, confidence in mercy arises [upon both parts must a Christian prayer be founded]. Such confidence in the divine promise, and likewise in the merits of Christ, ought to be brought forward when we pray. For we ought to be truly confident, both that for Christ’s sake we are heard, and that by His merits we have a reconciled Father. “

  39. Thank you for your kind words Beth! I do appreciate your rhetorical style, if not your logic :). If only everyone approached online debate this way, maybe it would actually occasionally lead to some changed minds … I can’t spend every waking moment on this site, or even every moment that I spend on theology in general, but yes, my intention is to keep coming back … kind of like a friendly mosquito, although I know you’re hope (and prayer) is that my eyes are opened to the truths that you see (incidentally, my prayer is the same, for you). I recognize the shortcomings of my (and all) human judgment, so I need to continue to read opposing (and agreeing) positions, as well as continue to read Scripture, meditate and pray, to sharpen that judgment and bring it in line with reality.

    Fra Charles, perhaps you’re right, and I need to do more reading (in general, that is true, although I think it’s a given, for anyone). Loved your example about praying for the car keys, but I think it highlights the weakness of the Roman position in general – I’ve been told by Catholics that the reason they would pray to a saint in that situation is that they don’t feel right “bothering” God, but as you point out, really all they’re doing is bothering God to bother a saint to bother God (by Catholic theology). Obviously that’s presenting it in the worst light possible, but you can see why the Catholic position that this is OK to do because really it’s still being brought before God doesn’t make a ton of sense. Further, the simplification (“St Anthony, help me find my keys!”) shows very clearly how easy it is for a person to be put into the place of (treated as) God directly with this practice, which is really the very definition of idolatry.

    As for the solo/sola scriptura debate … the problem with framing it that way is that we actually both agree with the “scriptura” part, it’s just the solo/sola part that we’re debating. And debating that is hard, because you’re debating a difference of scale rather than of existence vs. non-existence. So pointing out the infallibility of scripture (as Matt does) is not going to change a thing. The real issue is the issue of the “other” authorities, and framing the debate that way tends to be much more fruitful. Reformed communities in general agree that one’s own individual interpretation of Scripture is fallible, and use tradition as a way to guide and avoid those errors. Along with debating others, listening to those who are smarter than you or placed above you (ie, your minister), comparing Scripture with Scripture, etc. Roman Catholics take that Tradition to the next level and put it in the hands of the Magisterium, on the basis of, as far as I can tell, Tradition and the Magisterium’s say so, along with some scriptural interpretation (that the Reformers also use to put tradition in it’s proper place) … so rather than ask “on what Scriptural basis do you base the authority of Scripture”, the discussion should be around the value and place of tradition, and the nature of human authority in the church … which is where it often comes back to, but throwing the terms sola scriptura in there just clouds things up.

  40. RD (# 39),

    Further, the simplification (“St Anthony, help me find my keys!”) shows very clearly how easy it is for a person to be put into the place of (treated as) God directly with this practice,

    I don’t agree that this is shown clearly. Certainly when I ask my wife, “Darling, help me find my keys!” I am not treating her as God. Just asking a living person for help. And Saint Anthony is certainly alive… and in the presence of God!

    — Nathaniel

  41. @RD
    Well, everything that happens happens by the permissive or direct will of God. Me typing this is done by the power of God’s sustaining the universe and being the “engine” by which it runs. So while they, I agree, aren’t fully understanding the nature of the intercessory power of the saints or the care God has for us, I would also insist they are not falling into error.

    The image of a family with siblings is a profound analogy that could be a subject for meditation. While God could do everything Himself, He is capable, it is His tendency to involve His creatures in His works. A primary example of this is the use of angels as messengers and to supply aid. God wants us to grow up and be instruments of grace, he is not like the father who gets a model boat to work on with his son, but insists on doing all the work himself. We can participate in the actualization of God’s will, that is why we pray, not to change God’s mind, but because He wants us to ask, and to involve others in our petitions as well.

    To quote from another recent comment of mine:

    And to answer your question better, I think that the lack of sacramental worship is a major factor in why, looking from the outside, it seems Christ gets lost amongst the saints, devotions, etc. I don’t receive St. Anthony in the Eucharist, I don’t desire to be absolved by a priest acting in persona Sancti Francisci, and I wasn’t baptized “In the Names of St. Therese, St. Jude, and Our Lady of Guadalupe”. The sacraments unite us in such a profound way with Christ that to compare receiving the Eucharist with doing a novena to St. Joseph is, to a well-catechized Catholic, absurd.

    Finally, I think reading the critique of sola vs solo would be fruitful to understanding why it keeps popping up. In a nutshell, in the “sola scriptura” of Scripture and Tradition but Scripture first, the choice of what is “Tradition” is subject to what one considers Biblical, and so you are still left with nothing but a Bible and your personal interpretation. (i.e. the Marian prayer “Sub Tuum Praesidium” predates the Council of Nicea by about 75 years. Tradition? And on the topic of Marian antiphons, isn’t this awesome)

    We simply say that we were given Scripture (Written Tradition) and Tradition (Oral Tradition) by God, and were also given a Magisterium guided by the Holy Spirit to ensure we don’t mess the first two up. We both believe in the need for other authorities, but we profess they (1) must not be selected by our subjective interpretation of Scripture, that is, from an official and authoritative source, and (2) must be protected from falling into error by the action of the Holy Spirit who guides the Church to all truth.

  42. Thanks everyone for all of the food for thought, reading, study, and reflection. It will take some time to work through it all, but I appreciate it and have begin working through all of the comments that everyone has made and reading sources that people have suggested. I will probably have some follow-up questions/comments in the future.

    I also do some reading at the Orthodox-Reformed Bridge and have emailed some with the webmaster of that site, so I have my work cut out for me in trying to work through all of this!

    Lord Jesus Christ, intercede for me at the right hand of your father that I might rightly understand how your mother’s intercession fits with your unique role as our merciful high priest and only mediator between man and God.

    Blessed Mary, Virgin Mother of God/Theotokos, pray for me that I might rightly understand your intercessory role.

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